Over four and a half million devotees from India and different parts of the world braved the cold weather and took a holy dip in the confluence of the river Ganga and Bay of Bengal at the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti today. Around 46 lakh devotees gathered at the mela ground till today, informed a senior official of the state government.

“As the weather is favourable and there is no big fair in any part of India at this time, we have had increasing number of pilgrims at the island. Around 270 foreign pilgrims also visited the place in this year After Kumbh Mela, the Gangasagar Mela is said to be the second largest assembly of people flocking to the island from different parts of the country and abroad.

Located at a distance of around 150km from the capital of the state, the Gangasagar Island in the district of South 24 Parganas is considered a holy land by the Hindus, who flock to the mela ground in huge numbers during Makar Sankranti to take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. Millions of devotees offer prayers at the Kapil Muni Temple while the chief priest observes the ‘Maha Arti.’

Elaborate security arrangements have been made at the ground. Advanced technologies were used to synchronise with the mela which is getting larger with every passing year. While 1000 CCTV cameras and 20 drones kept a strict vigil, several ministers conducted aerial surveys to take a stock of the situation. The state transport department, for the first time, provided air ambulances to air lift pilgrims who fell critically ill during the mela.

A total of four pilgrims were air lifted and referred to different hospitals in Kolkata and Howrah in the last four days. Chief Minister’s message that the strength of the country lies in the diversity of culture carries significance especially at a time when there had been a strong protest against the CAA and NRC in the state with ruling Trinamool Congress going hammer and tongs with the Centre on the issue.

The Trinamool Congress has already termed the move as ‘draconian’ and demanded a withdrawal of the CAA and NRC. They have alleged that the BJP led government at the Centre has been discriminating the people of the country on the basis of their religion which is totally unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, chief minister Mamata Banerjee today greeted people of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and said that Gangasagar Mela witnesses the second largest congregation of devotees.

Taking to twitter, Miss Banerjee earlier on the day said: “Greetings on #MakarSankranti. Lakhs of pilgrims will take holy dip today at the 2nd largest congregation of mankind, Gangasagar Mela. While Kumbh is accessible through road & rail, Gangasagar is unqiue; it can only be reached via waterway.”